Story Credit: INDYCAR PR
Photo Credit: INDYCAR Photo
Until this week, few NTT IndyCar Series drivers had much experience with this demanding 11-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course and its signature corner, the corkscrew at Turn 8.
The final challengers for INDYCAR’s Rookie-of-the-Year title believe that gives them level footing against their more experienced counterparts, though it bears noting that Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda), Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda) and Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda) have fared pretty well this season despite the noted deficit.
Herta has a race win and two poles, Rosenqvist has a pair of runner-up finishes in the past four races, and Ferrucci has been impressive on the oval tracks, with four top-seven finishes.
Rosenqvist expects the rookie class to earn strong marks during this first Indy car weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca since 2004.
“I think it resets everything,” the Swede said. “No one has a bunch of experience here. There’s no magic lines anywhere that someone has been working on for the past couple years.”
Rosenqvist said the corkscrew portion of the circuit, a sharp and winding downhill run through Turns 8, 8A and 9, is a stretch where drivers have been experimenting with different approaches. Herta’s last attempt in Friday’s first practice resulted in a spin and slide through the dirt.
“I just went in there a little bit too hot, locked the rear (tires) going over the rise in the corkscrew and that sent me spinning before I could turn in,” he said. “Just a mistake on my part, but it seems like everybody kind of has a car that’s a handful (there) and it makes it interesting to watch on TV. But it’s not so fun to do it in the driver’s seat.”
Like the championship contenders, Ferrucci said the rookies are hungry to win their own title.
“I think we’re really putting in a lot of extra work to be up front to try and win this battle,” he said. “I think it’s really showing, especially in the results, that to us it’s our championship and it’s just as important to us as if we were racing for the Astor Cup.”
The rookies were second (Rosenqvist), third (Herta) and sixth (Ferrucci) on Friday’s speed chart.